Cleanest Car On Earth – Honda Civic GX
Honda is the quiet one...and you never know what the quiet ones will come up with next! First Honda refused to join the car industry association that dragged their heels on environmental innovation. Then they introduced the Honda Civic in 1974 – an ingeniously simple Civic CVCC that was world-changing for its fuel efficiency and low emissions. They sold the first gasoline low-emissions vehicle and the first hybrid vehicle in North America. And the first government-certified fuel-cell car. Honda has built a legacy of innovation and acting on their core beliefs that they've named "Environmentology."
Steve Ellis, Manager of Alternative Fuel Vehicles for American Honda Motor Company in Torrance, CA is justifiably proud of his involvement in Honda's products and their programs to promote sustainability not only in their vehicles, but in their workplace programs. He helped establish Honda's employee alternative transportation programs and outreach to suppliers who match their high standards in environmentally conscious innovation.
The history of California's air emissions challenges and struggles are globally recognized and followed by governments and companies that produce the wheels that we roll on. Natural gas vehicles are part of that story.
Alternative Transportation TechnologyAlternative fuel vehicle availability varies by fuel type. Currently light duty vehicles capable of using compressed natural gas (CNG), ethanol blends, and blended biodiesel are in production. Various heavy-duty vehicles using CNG, liquefied natural gas, propane, or biodiesel are also available.
Which alternative fuel vehicle platform is cleaner,
NGVs are CleanOverall, natural gas is one of the cleanest burning alternative fuels available to the public today. NGVs can reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and reactive hydrocarbons, which form ground-level ozone (the principal ingredient of smog), by as much as 95 percent. NGVs can also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by as much as 30 percent, carbon monoxide (CO) by 85 percent and carcinogenic particulate emissions by 99 percent. Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) manufactured in the last five years have had to meet more stringent standards than the vehicles built in the previous 10 years. Standards keep rising – and Honda has had a pivotal role in proving that higher standards are attainable.
The Honda Natural Gas Civic GX"The Honda CNG Civic was the first vehicle in California certified as an AT-PZEV, meeting a 15 year/150,000 mile emissions durability warranty by California's Air Resources Board (CARB)," Ellis explained. "It set a new benchmark for emissions performance DURABILITY for vehicles. And many cars since then have proven they can be clean over their entire life. The new natural gas technology is so clean and clean for so long that it has much lower smog impact than other technologies. HONDA was first and proved it could be done – in 2000. CARB mandated this level of durability to get the partial ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) credit. The Natural gas version of the Civic came onto market 1998 and set a new benchmark – it demonstrated to CARB they needed a new lower exhaust emissions standard.
Fleets benefit from using these clean natural gas vehicles to show environmental leadership by deploying cleaner vehicles, proving others can too. They can show they're serious about being part of the solution that reduces smog and oil dependence.
"The NGV vehicles cost more: about $2,000 more than a hybrid. But the original owner can get a $4,000 federal tax credit (dollar for dollar) and they also have lower fuel costs," Ellis pointed out. "$ .50 to $1.00 less than a gallon of gasoline. Diesel is sometimes equivalent or higher than gasoline. The 2006 Civic Hybrid also has a 50-mpg rating. That saves money, too!"
There are currently over 130,000 natural gas vehicles in the U.S. and about 4.3 million worldwide. Taxicabs, garbage trucks, and school buses are often fueled with natural gas and nationwide, 32% of all new transit buses are fueled by clean-burning natural gas.
The Hydrogen-Natural Gas ConnectionSince natural gas (CH4), is primarily made up of hydrogen molecules, it is a logical transitional fuel to get to future hydrogen technologies.
The Civic GX introduced for retail sale to consumers in California and New York in 2007 also promises to lead the way to the advancement of fuel-cell vehicles. "Natural gas vehicles help drivers transition to the concepts applied in hydrogen vehicles. Hydrogen will require a whole new fueling stations infrastructure based on a gaseous system. Both NG and hydrogen are gaseous -- they share the same hardware. Hydrogen is predominantly made from NG (methane and water – and it is a steam / methane process)."
Hydrogen is often laughed about – with most people expressing doubts that they'll see hydrogen available in their lifetime. But hydrogen vehicles are already rolling on our streets. Not many, to be sure – but they're being road tested by government agencies and now, a few individuals.
"The natural gas driver today is an apprentice for the hydrogen drivers of tomorrow – learning to deal with limited access to a refueling infrastructure, adapting to a different fuel that calls into question safety concerns which are quickly overcome, a refueling process that is different (it still takes 3-5 minutes, but uses different connections) – all these processes are identical to hydrogen usage. With gaseous fuels, there is a shorter vehicle range. Initially, these vehicles work well for fleets that are somewhat tethered...so companies with short trips will benefit first but the next generation of cars will approach 300 mile range.
This new form of gaseous fuel is starting to make inroads into public/consumer use. The Honda Civic GX is quickly getting that consumer "stamp of approval". When consumers vote with their wallet it's because they experience greater savings than anticipated. "Our customers are finding that while they bought the car for their commute," Ellis explained, "they're using it on weekends as well and are happy with the greater range and functionality than expected. They're leveraging their investment farther than they thought was feasible."
Natural Gas FuelingFueling is becoming easier, too. Phill - the home refueling appliance manufactured by Fuel Maker Corporation, provides consumers and small business Civic GX owners a convenient and affordable method of refueling their natural gas vehicle at home or at the small business. Phill can be mounted to a garage wall, either indoors or outdoors, and allows the GX to refuel overnight directly from an existing natural gas supply line. Fuel Maker also offers a Commercial version of Phill with a slightly different configuration for small fleets. Either way, fuel cost can be cut significantly compared to gasoline.
Certified, Stamped and Approved -- The Cleanest Car in the World!The California Air Resources Board (CARB) provides a list of vehicles certified to the "Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle Standard (SULEV)" which are 90% cleaner than the average car offered for sale in California. In addition a few of these certified SULEV vehicles also receive credit as "Partial Zero Emission Vehicles (PZEV)" or as "Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicles (AT-PZEV)".
Vehicles receiving the AT-PZEV credit are the same as above, but also make use of "ZEV-enabling" clean technologies such as alternative fuel, electric drives, or other advanced technology systems.
"All the AT-PZEV vehicles, regardless of brand, are so clean that they have only trace differences between them," Ellis graciously says...but adds with a grin, "but our Honda Civic GX is still cleaner and has ZERO evaporative emissions!"
RESOURCES:ARB Motor Vehicle Information Hotline: (800) 242-4450
California Air Resources Board: Best Performer Vehicles List
Vehicles receiving these credits have near-zero evaporative emissions and their emission control equipment has a 15-year/150,000 mile warranty. Vehicles receiving the AT=PZEV credit also make use of "ZEV-enabling" clean technologies such as alternative fuel, electric drives, or other advanced technology systems.
Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFV) can operate on a fuel other than gasoline or petroleum based diesel, such as biologically produced diesel (biodiesel) electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, methanol, natural gas, or propane. environmental benefits. AFVs produce fewer emissions than those powered by gasoline or diesel fuel. emission reductions of up to 80 percent for pollutants such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, non-methane organic gas, oxides of nitrogen, or particulate matter can be achieved. the amount of emission reductions varies by alt fuel type and pollutant.
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